Right on the heels of their excellent LP from last year, Jack Cooper’s Modern Nature issues a mini-LP that further expands on his grey-streaked pastoral direction. A master of nocturnes, Cooper’s built Modern Nature into a hybrid of psychedelic folk that creeps along the underbrush with a soft footing and jazz impulses that slink through the streets at night breathing tendrils of smoke and steam into the flickering lamplight above. From the coiled confines of “Flourish,” rife with cool discomfort, to the pulsing skitter and deep sighs of “Harvest,” the album pushes Modern Nature’s world beyond the walls that were cobbled on How To Live. While mostly built on the same lineuep, “Harvest” features Kayla Cohen on vocals, and she’s a welcome addition to the focused, twilight shimmer of Modern Nature’s sound.
That sound in particular is what attracts the listener to Annual. What’s most apparent is that this suite of songs all share the same wounded heart. How To Live explored the basis of the sounds that crop up here — the slow amble of piano lines, guitar sway, Jeff Tobias’ foggy sax smears, and the inky slink of brushed drums — but Annual ties the temperament of its songs together in such a way that they feel like a vignette that needs to be cracked over repeated listens. The mini-LP plays out like a single night spent getting one’s head straight after a loss or life upset. The suite is reserved and pensive, never quite letting us get close enough to see how bad the wounds are, or at least doing a good job of covering up the blood that seeps out in emotional ripples, but the hurt can be felt in every note. It’s an excellent companion to the LP and further argument for Modern Nature’s wounded folk strain to continue evolving under a close eye.
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